Deer Shed Festival 2016 Review

A Warm Yorkshire Welcome For a Great Family Weekend

By Kirsty with Evelyn (6) and Martha (3)

Deer Shed 2016

Sadly there are still those who think festivals are all about drink and drugs and so totally unsuitable for children. Those people need a trip to Deer Shed.

This is a festival lovingly and cleverly crafted for families. At Deer Shed you are probably more likely to come across a small person going a bit wild after too many fruit juices than an adult getting drunk and rowdy.

Gwenno gets a new little fan
Gwenno gets a new little fan

The whole weekend was relaxed and civilised (by festival standards). The main area is essentially one large field loosely divided into different areas by tents, with the gently sloping hill above the main stage roughly in the centre.

You are never very far from anything. This was the first time we left our buggy at home for a festival and we didn’t regret it. Even three year old Martha managed with just a few rides on Daddy’s shoulders.

The rows of tents did give me one minor complaint though. We had to pass stalls selling enticing looking goods everywhere we went which led to a lot of pestering from the kids.

My other gripe was the lack of water taps in the arena on Friday. It was a hot afternoon and I had to trek all the way back to the campsite to refill our water bottles. Taps did appear by Saturday though. It seems the pipes had been there they just hadn’t been connected up.

On Sunday, when there were a few heavy showers, we also realised how useful it was that most things were under cover. We barely noticed the initial down pour. We were reclining in deck chairs while the kids spent a happy hour in the fully covered sand pit and soft play area. But with the exception of the main stage, all the other stages, craft areas etc. were in large tents so there was no need for anyone to get wet or bored.

Despite seeming relatively small, the arena area never got crowded. Even during the more popular acts on the main stage we were able to sit on the hill and enjoy the music while the kids danced about, blew bubbles or put on their own acts on the little “Pallet Stage”. It was lovely to be able to let them wander off a little bit and enjoy themselves without ever worrying I’d lose sight of them in a crowd.

Entertainment

There was a lot to do at Deer Shed, with craft activities and workshops going on during the day. The Mine Craft heads seemed very popular. We took part in a Folk singing workshop designed for primary aged children but enjoyed by the grown ups too.

In my real life job I’m a scientist so I was delighted to see the large science tent constantly packed out with enthusiastic kids getting hands on with a wide range of activities. Though you had to get in early to book some of the most popular ones. I’d love to see this expanded even more in future years.

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Beth Orton closing the main stage on Sunday afternoon

For those with energy to burn there was a whole field full of sporting activities, an under fives tent with messy play, and a baby rave. This years theme was “At The Movies” so there were film screenings and the opportunity to be extras in Deer Shed’s very own movie.

It would have been good to have more early morning activities. There didn’t seem to be much going on until 10am. With so many small children a lot of people had been up for hours by then. Something to keep all the kids happy, preferably next to a coffee stand, would have been very welcome!

While Deer Shed is definitely a family festival it isn’t just about kids entertainment. There were some great music acts too.

We all loved Gwenno, who was apparently singing about very serious subjects but did so entirely in Welsh and Cornish to gorgeous music. In the Obelisk stage tent the girls danced around to Patch and Giant and Amber Arcades but only after Evelyn’s excellent sofa grabbing skills claimed a welcome comfy seat for us grown ups to watch from.

Great music, happy kids, a sofa and some good cider – what more could you ask for on a Saturday afternoon?

The main stage hosted some pretty varied acts, our favourites were Rae Morris, Ed Harcourt and (for my inner 90’s moody teenager) Beth Orton.

It’s testament to the family ethos of Deer Shed that several of the acts were clearly trying very hard not to swear. Beth Orton barely dared speak in case she slipped up and when Steve Mason was unapologetic about a bit of bad language he was soundly booed by the tweens behind us.

Camping and facilities

Like the arena, Deer Shed’s campsite had plenty of space. We had no problem finding a spot for our embarrassingly huge tent.

There was a short trek from the car to the campsite but we made use of the trolley hire service to make things easier.

The campsite would perhaps have benefited from a few more toilets as there were queues at the usual busy times. Generally speaking the loo queues weren’t too bad across the site and I only once found the toilets dirty and lacking in loo roll. But as I came out the cleaning van was arriving so I guess that was just bad timing.

There weren’t very many showers. But as most people only stay for two nights they aren’t really essential.

There was also a camper van field, a small non family camping section and an accessible camping area. Every set of toilets had a larger disabled loo, some of them with a baby changing table in it.

Food and Drink

Martha, enjoying the sandpit, while Mum and Dad share a cocktail
Martha, enjoying the sandpit, while Mum and Dad share a cocktail

Deer Shed may not be a very hedonistic event but it’s not all fruit juice and temperance for the grown ups.

The bars stocked a nice range of beers and cider. Perhaps this shows I’m a Londoner, not a Yorkshire lass, but at £3.80-£4 a pint (plus £2 for a reusable cup the first time) it was reasonably priced too. The Sloemotion bar was even better, with cocktails for £5.

There was a good range of food on offer. The wood fired pizzas at £7 each were very popular. Our kids loved the fish finger kids meal for £5 and the small portions of Macaroni Cheese (£3).

Adult meals were in the £7-£9 range with lots of good vegetarian options including Indian food from the fabulously named “Gahndi’s Flipflop” stall.

evelyn review
By Evelyn aged 6, actually nearly 7. *note from mum, boys can make bracelets too.

The Deer Shed Experience

It’s sometimes not the obvious things, like the bands or the weather, that can make or break a festival experience. It’s clear that a lot of thought went into making all aspects of Deer Shed work for families.

The site, facilities and entertainment all made sure that the festival was great fun, but also easy, safe and relaxed, for everyone.

The trade off was perhaps a lack of diversity in the festival crowd. You could start a twitter account of “Things overheard at a middle class festival”. The baby facilities were provided by the NCT and almost everyone was a family with pre teen children. But if you don’t mind a bit of homogeneity and some truly fine examples of Dad Dancing then Deer Shed is great way to kick off the summer holidays.

Even leaving was straight forward. The main stage finished off at 5.30pm on Sunday and by the time we’d grabbed some pancakes and wandered to our car at 6pm we were able to drive straight out and get to the A1 in no time. We were back in London in less than four hours.

Not that any of us wanted to leave, both girls asked if they could stay all summer. Sadly Deer Shed is only a weekend, but if it was the whole summer, what a wonderful summer that would be.

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